18-wheeler explosion causes traffic nightmare

A tanker explosion on Beltway 8 near Antoine on Friday night caused a series of mini explosions in the immediate area and a traffic nightmare for those on the roads.
June 5, 2010 7:27:34 AM PDT
A tanker truck exploded after colliding with a car and van in northwest Harris County Friday night, causing a fire that lit up the night sky and traffic troubles that had motorists backed up for miles.

Around 9pm, Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to the scene of the accident along the westbound feeder of Beltway 8 and Antoine. Investigators say the tanker truck rolled over in the wreck, sparking a huge ball of fire that would not be put out for nearly an hour and a half. Amazingly, no one was killed, though there were injuries.

"It appears there was a collision in the middle of the intersection," said Wesley Cole with the Northwest Volunteer Fire Department. "Whether it was the 18-wheeler or the car, we're unaware at this time of how the accident happened, but the sheriff's department is out here working to determine how the accident happened as well as trying to clean it up."

Cole also said a total of four people were hurt. Two people in the car and a man in a van went to the hospital. Their injuries are said to be non life-threatening. A fourth person refused treatment at the scene. The driver of the 18-wheeler was not hurt.

Jim Marsden, who lives a few blocks from the accident, said he heard a loud explosion.

"Everyone thought it was the gas station at the corner of Antoine and the Beltway 8, but then we came to find out it was an 18-wheeler truck carrying diesel or gasoline," he said. "You could smell some kind of toxic waste; that's what it smells like."

Firefighters spent the next hour trying to contain the flames with foam. The tanker was carrying at least 8,500 gallons of fuel. Some of it spilled into the drainage system.

"We did have gasoline leaking down into the storm drains along the Beltway feeder road. They did ignite," said Cole. "At this time, the fire has been extinguished but we are working our best to get the gasoline out and get the vapors out of the storm drain."

Even after the fire was out, neighbors reported hearing explosions in the nearby storm drain. They could also smell the gasoline. A contractor is in the process of trying to clean it out.

The crash happened close to some high voltage lines. We talked to CenterPoint energy, who tells us it diverted electricity away from the wires closest to the fire as a precaution. The move did not cause any customers to lose power.

During the firefight, officials were forcing traffic onto Highway 249. SkyEye aerials of the scene showed traffic backed up for miles in the area.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.


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